Whoever came up with the famous proverb, ‘Silence is golden’, was definitely not a parent! Everyone who has a child will agree that one of the toughest parenting challenge is to get your ward to break the silence, open up to you about their feelings and really talk to you. And this holds especially true if your children are in their pre-teens or are teenagers. A time, when they are more inclined to confess what’s on their mind to friends rather than to family. Once you manage to win your way into becoming their confidante, you wil not only realise what a world of difference it will make to your equation when you know your child inside out, but you can also help create a happy, trusting and nurturing environment for them. Here are five ways to ensure that the communication flow always remains smooth and healthy between your child and you.
1. Treat children as equals!
The biggest yet oft ignored rule of good communication with children is that you should never dismiss your child or assume he/she knows lesser than you or needs to be put in place. Before participating in any conversation with your child, remember that they are tiny adults who should be treated as equals. They are distinct individuals, who each have their own hopes, dreams, fears and thoughts. And if you want to get into their minds, you have to give them the respect they deserve in order to earn the same from them. When you treat them as an equal, they feel much more comfortable opening up to you than they ever would if you approached them like you are a superior being who controls their lives.
2. Be available!
Yes, as parents who are juggling between busy careers, running the household and hundred other tasks everyday, you might not have too much time to spare, but understand that your children treasures every moment that you dedicatedly spend with them. Hurried meals, TV time or all those moments when everyone is buried in their smart phones don’t make for any conversations. Spare some time everyday to actually spend quality time with your children, where you ensure that you are not multi-tasking, but are solely giving them your undivided attention. Once they know that you really care and are actually eager to know about their day, they feel much more comfortable sharing their lives with you.
3. Communicate, not criticise!
Remember that children are fragile creatures who are only learning the ways of life, sometimes the hard way. So there will always be failures, bad judgement calls and many moments when they will make mistakes. These are times when your child needs you more than ever. So, resist that first urge to shout, chastise or lecture them. Instead, hear them out and gently talk to them about what happened. They look up to you as role models and if you turn them away by screaming at them, they will never learn from the situation. What’s worse, they will begin to hide things from you to protect themselves from your anger or dissapointment. If you want to truly earn their trust, you need to let them know that you are on their side and instead teach them ways through which they can undo a mistake or repent it. This way, they will be doubly careful before making the same one the next time. Remember, it’s easy to win their hearts when you explain, not argue. Have a conversation, not lecture. Encourage, not embarras. And most importantly, explain, not argue.
4. Let them decide!
Children who remain closed to their parents often clam up because they think that their opinions don’t make a difference in the household. They often feel that their ideas might be considered trivial or that their views may not be taken in consideration while coming to a resolution. This results in the assumption that they are better off keeping their mouths shut. What you could do to change this point of view is to start including your children in conversations before making any major decision about them or the home. The decision could be something as silly as what colour should the wall be painted or where to go on a vacation or a major one like what career path they should choose, but once you start including them in the dialogue, your children will feel respected and much more comfortable expressing their ideas to you. This opens up a whole window of communication, where you can discover and respect their perspective on things.
5. Take an interest in their interests!
Yes, you might not know a thing about rock music or what the latest online trend is about, but if you want to be your children’s friend and share their happiness and good times with them, you have to start doing some homework! Read up a little about their hobbies and interests, or even better, ask them about it yourself. You will be amazed at how that quiet teenager of yours who prefers being locked up in a room will excitedly open a floodgate of conversation with you if you begin to share an interest in their leisurely pursuits. The best part? If your initial curioisity actually leads you to also become a fan of one of their hobbies, you will never run out of things to talk about! And who knows, some day, you two might just be going for concerts together!